I’m not white: one person of colors’ experience in radical spaces

By A. Mutt

If you think it’s not hard being a woman of color in this world, try walking down the street as one. Not only do I get harassed about my body, but also about my race. “Are you Mexican?” “You look Japanese.” “Hey, white girl!” I get the last comment a lot and it makes me want to stop and correct the person, but I think that comment is more about my privilege than race. My mom is Salvadoran and Pacific Islander and my dad is Mexican, German and French. I’m thankful for my diverse background, but I know next to nothing about my heritage since I come from a broken family and never took an interest in it growing up. The older I get, the more I’d like to dig up my roots, especially now, where people of color are getting more visibility and a chance to speak up and change this crazy, messed up world.

While at times it makes me sad that I’m not close with my family, I am grateful that my upbringing has turned me away from traditional roles in society and instead gravitated me towards the anarchist and punk communities in the Bay Area. In these circles I find diversity and like-minded people of all races, backgrounds, sizes, ages, and gender, yet I can’t help but notice that a lot of people in my social scenes are white people of privilege. One day my friend and I were talking and I made a comment about how many white people I live with and how it made me uncomfortable. She flat out told me “But you’re white.” “No I’m not,” I said defensively. “Well technically you are.” This conversation not only upset me, but it made me question my ENTIRE identity and I wondered to myself, “Am I white?” Of course the answer is no, I am mixed and proud. Comments like the one made by my friend are harmful in many ways. Not only did they discredit my background and identity, but they didn’t stop and listen when I told them that I wasn’t white, nor did they ask questions about what I had just told them.

I’ve also felt discomfort in the very collective that I volunteer for, which is Slingshot. The Long Haul Infoshop, where we make the paper, is a very special place to me. I have felt welcomed since day one and continue to retreat to the infoshop when I need to recharge my batteries or when the world is getting me down. The people who are “regulars” are not just anarchists, but weirdos, wingnuts, queers, and one of a kind people who I don’t meet anywhere else. Sometimes I go there to read and listen in on the exciting conversations that occur on any given night. Topics that are discussed range from what happened at last night’s protest  to fun questions that are asked at the beginning of the anarchist study groups (one night they asked what everyone’s favorite cake was and most people answered “Pie.” How contrary).

Not everybody who hangs out at The Long Haul works on the paper, though. In fact, the Slingshot collective numbers seem to have dwindled due to member burnout or new volunteers feeling intimidated. In the past year, I’ve taken a step back from volunteering due to some attacks on my writing. A lot of the articles that are turned into Slingshot are at the academic level and that makes me feel intimidated to turn anything in since I’m mostly a self-taught writer. There is also a gender imbalance in the collective and I wonder where the people of color are at? Me and another volunteer brainstormed last summer about doing a call out on the slingshot collective about the lack of female presence and how it seemed like the leadership roles were not divvied up fairly and how certain members seem to dominate the space. Not only that, but I sometimes feel like I am asked to attend meetings and volunteer because I’m seen as one of the token POCs in the collective, but things are changing. At a recent meeting, there were more female-assigned people working on the paper and that made me feel a lot more comfortable and made me want to volunteer more of my time.   The paper is not perfect and maybe it never will be, but it’s a continued source of inspiration for many people around the world, which is evident in the letters and emails we receive everyday. Slingshot has helped shape my political beliefs and I’ve learned a lot from the collective process and the flaws within it. I’d love to see more POCs write articles and contribute to Slingshot because I know we have a lot to say.